Directed by Ryan Smith
Part fantasy, part creature feature, Ryan Smith’s After stars Steven Strait and Karolina Wydra as Freddy and Ana, who cross each other’s paths during one particularly fateful bus journey. Unsuccessfully trying to chat Ana up, comic book artist Freddy is given the brush off just before the bus is involved in a devastating crash.
Awakening in their homes what appears to be months later (judging by their hair growth), Freddy and Ana discover that they are the only remaining people in their entire town. Strangely, the outskirts are sealed entirely by a wall of mysterious dark fog, which is slowly encroaching on the centre of town, and they soon discover that the only other resident happens to be a snarling, chained creature determined to get its claws into them.
Thankfully, director Smith wastes very little time before revealing the nature of the pair’s predicament, which, given the title of the film and basic premise, is obvious to just about anyone with any cinematic experience. Here, though, the pair aren’t dead – they’re trapped in a shared coma, with the decision to switch off Ana’s life support being due right around the time that the dark fog envelops their homestead. With a mysterious door, surrounded by keys, proving the only way out of this otherworld, the pair are taken through various scenarios from their childhood as the universe attempts to reveal the truth behind a shared situation and history between them that Freddy and Ana were not entirely aware of.
Of course, the snarling beast also factors into things, and ultimately the two will need to face it if they want to get out in time.
After is a film that feels as though it wants to be important. It wants to be poignant, touching and emotional but only comes across as manipulative and ill-conceived. Events unfold at a snail’s pace, with the consistently murky visuals throughout much of the events in coma-land proving extremely tiring on the eyes despite the admittedly impressive realisation. The computer generated fog looks exceptional, and the monster design is pretty cool, if lacking real presence in some scenes due to the nature of the CGI creation.
Leads Strait and Wydra are… fine, really, but you’re not likely to care too much about either of them. After throws enough emotional clichés at you that it really just expects you to empathise with the pair from the off, when in reality this failed attempt at manipulation, coupled with the interminably plodding nature of the second act, is more likely to induce frustration and impatience than engagement. When it eventually boils down to the sappy, twee ending, the main problem with After is easily apparent but can’t be entirely divulged due to being such a major plot element. Let’s just say that when the connection between the pair is fully revealed, falling in love wouldn’t be the first reaction on many people’s minds.
Far too saccharine for its own good, After is an exercise in boredom that just can’t be saved by the presence of a nifty monster nor an impressively inventive take on the dead/coma premise. The constant fumbling attempts at grasping the heartstrings prove nothing more than transparent and annoying.
2 out of 5